- Sensual, curvy good looks
- Well balanced for its heft
- EV Mode
- Hesitant off the line
- Options can quickly inflate the price
- Rough-sounding engine
The 2012 Infiniti M35h hybrid shows that a green pick can still be a lot of fun to drive.
The 2012 Infiniti M35h hybrid serves as the middle trim of the Infiniti M sedans, and as the greenest model in the entire Infiniti lineup.
On the exterior, the M35h doesn't trade out its sensual curves in an effort to go green. There are two hybrid badges, one on each front fender. Aside from each of those and the M35h badge on the trunk lid, the bodywork and styling are completely identical to that of the gasoline-only M37 and M56. Inside you'll note the hybrid power and battery charge gauge on the left in the cluster, and that's it. With so little overt badging, green image-seekers might need to flock elsewhere.
Infiniti has paired its 302-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 with a hybrid drive system in the M35h. Combined, the system's total output is 360 horsepower, managed by a seven-speed automatic transmission. Power is sent to the rear wheels while some energy is recovered to the 1.3-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack upon braking. The battery pack eats into a large part of the trunk but powers the 50-kW electric motor that produces 199 pound-feet of torque. The hybrid system adds an extra burst of power when needed both off the line and when passing on the highway. There is a slight delay as the power shifts between the battery pack and engine, and the engine can sound rough, but there's a lot of acceleration on tap.
With the Infiniti drive mode selector in the M35h hybrid--featuring four modes, including Snow, Eco, Standard, and Sport--the large mid-size luxury sedan can change its responsiveness and overall driving character with the flick of switch.
The M35h can achieve terrific fuel economy figures of 27 mpg city, 32 highway, but to see that you'll need to change how much resistance the gas pedal provides with the eco pedal feature. We were surprised how often the M35h would revert into EV-only mode both while cruising around town and while at highways speeds. Infiniti claims the M35h can operate as much as 50 percent of the time in EV mode.
Complementing the hybrid system is Infiniti's electro-hydraulic steering, which only activates the electric motor powering the hydraulic-assist pump when the steering wheel is turned. This system provides good feedback through the wheel to the driver, while only using power when needed. The brakes are easy to modulate and feel conventional.
Thanks in part to roof-mounted curtain side-impact airbags, the M35h achieves a five-star side crash-test rating. The M35h also comes with many luxury features as standard equipment, although a technology package, deluxe touring package, and premium package can all quickly add $10,150 to the sticker price. Safety-tech features such as lane departure prevention and forward collision warning are just some of the unique pieces of technology available.